"I woke up and it was winter."
Those were the words spoken by Sarah Duffy on Remembrance Day in 1999
in Keji and they were the first words I heard this Sunday morning from the Dipper's tent around 7:00am.
But I digress a couple days.
Once again Gonzos were well represented in Kejimkujuk National Park on Remembrance Day for at least 20 years now.
What started out as a number of Gonzos and Greyhounds running the 50km Liberty Trail circumventing the Park--anywhere from one to 16 over the years--to runners and supporters, bikeing, providing tea, etc., to what has become an annual hike, maybe bike, and maybe paddle, and 2 night camp out, always culminated with a 'Poppy' tree ceremony.
With weather reports of possible snow, rain, and 100+ winds forcast, the two Brucies headed out mid Friday afternoon (the 9th) arriving at the Park, getting registered, and at the trail into Wilderness Group campsite 'C' by 3:45pm.
It should be noted a much better packing job took place by both this year, and even though last year we did make the hike into camp in one trip, it was pretty ugly. This time we looked like woods men.
We got everything set up well before dark, fire going, drinking a beer, when around 5:30pm Keith and Peggy strolled in with Joey. Greetings all around and they proceded to set up in the darkening woods. An hour later Greg and barbie wondered down the trail, led by Mad Maxx. Again hugs and kisses all around, perpetual motion, tents set up, keep moving to keep warm and then cuddle around the fire, crunchies, beer, sausages, etc.
Each time a new arrival, more stories of the impending rain, snow, wind---Hey, it is November, eh!
Morning brought an overcast sky with that feeling something was going to happen, but when? We had a 25km hike to do, maybe it wouldn't start until we got back--almost.
After an abnormally late start around 9:00am, after a leisurly breakfast, we had an uneventful hike into site #46, approximately 11+ kms, arriving around noon, just in time for lunch--the rain having just started. It looked like a possible cold, wet hike back.
We had met a young couple who were staying at site 46 that night, and met them a couple times on the hike(s)--nice to see people other than 50 in the woods.
I started back a bit before the rest, knowing they got there a bit before me, I would let them catch up--Greg and Barbie caught me after 6 km or so and we wondered back together, laughing at old stories.
We arrived back around 3:00pm, the wind, rain, and now snow, starting to go pretty good. We found Chris and Betty Hollebone had arrived and were in the process of getting set up. They replaced Greg's tent with theirs, Greg and barbie were headin out as they had to be in Halifax the next morning and the planned early morning departure would be pretty ugly with the coming storm.
We sort of wondered where Keith, Peggy, and Bruce were when the arrived an hour later. We found they had continued onto site #5 before turning around. We were all wet and cold and went about our routines to put up tarps, cook suppers, build the fire, try to get warm, and if possible, dry.
I found the perfect fix--when I got back I was very wet and cold, put on some dry cloths, and curled up in my bag for a bit. Having to get up and help Chris put up the tent he had borrowed from me, I was a bit brain dead, and did not put on my rain proof gear, leaving me with a second set of WET cloths, and only minimal gear still dry.
That perfect fix---I crawled into my tent, ate a couple cans of kippers, a couple apples, chocolate bar, drank some juice and hot tea, turned the radio on and rwead a book.
The others, as I found out in the morning, had built an amazing array of tarps around the fire.
I went to sleep listening to Randy Backman and Vinyl Tap on CBC.
The night turned out pretty wild, with the wind really whistling in the tree tops well over our heads--every 10 minutes or so, snow would crash on our tents from the branches above--Murphy actually got hit by a pretty big branch----well sort of big!
I heard at least two crashes, not to far away from our site, of large trees crashing to the ground. I looked at the big, dead, tree that was in the middle of our camp site and just smiled!
When we crawled out of our tents, it was a magical fairyland of white.
"I woke up and it was winter."
It's Novemember 11th and we discussed how/when/where we would have our poppy ceremony. 11:00am, three hours away, seemed like a long time, and it was mentioned a number of times--it is 11:00am somewhere--yeah, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
As we tend to do, we fritted away the time, filled the day as Dipper says. Peggy helped me eat my 5 leftover sausages while the others ate porridge--ugh!
We decided to hike the 4km loop of the The Hemlocks and Hardwoods Trail stooping at the appropriate time.
We had Betty, being a rookie, read the poem 'In Flanders Field'. It is always special--I know I couldn't read it in public without breaking--she was magnificent!
So it was back to Camp 'C' to pick up our gear which was already packed, and pack out to the cars for the drive home.
At least it was back to the cars for Brucie, Brucie, Chris, and Betty.
Keith, Peggy, and Joey loaded their gear into their canoe and headed off down Big Dam Lake, heading for Wilderness site #8 where they were to spend the night before continuing onto Beaver Meadows on Lake Kejimkujuk to pick up their car which we deposited there.
The only bad part of the weekend----The Turkey Burger in New Germany was closed and we could not have our grease and gravy which we always so look forward to. But the Timmies was very good.